Great update projects to work on around your railway as the Sun set sets earlier and the heat of long summer days fade.
Whether it’s because working in sheds and lofts where many railways live is unbearable in the August heat, because we’re occupied keeping the kids entertained on their summer break or simply because we’re on our own holidays, modelling often takes a back seat in July and August.
But with Autumn now officially here, temperatures falling and the holidays over, we can now start to think about our train sets again. But what to do in the coming months?
Switch Your Railway Up A Gear
If your layout has manually operated points you’re missing out.
Adding point motors and the switches to control them makes operating a layout way more fun and entertaining. Watching a train heading towards a point and being able to just flick a switch rather than leaning over to manually change it changes the whole dynamic of operating your layout.
And you needn’t stop there.
There have been some great developments in signalling over the last few years with fully working — and incredibly realistic functioning— semaphore signals now available. Watching signals actually change their position still tickles me, it makes the whole layout more credible.
Yep, having electrically switched points and working signals will take a layout up a level for enjoyment.
Surface mount point motors can be fitted without too much disruption to your track and don’t require much in the way of extra equipment or cost: the motors themselves, a power supply and switches. And while fitting signals needs a little more work it’s nothing too complex and certainly worth doing given the benefits.
If you visit model railway exhibitions you’ll notice that while many people watch the trains operating it’s something else that keeps most people looking and sparks interest.
Small scenes telling a story — dioramas — will work wonders.
A cat on a signal box window ledge, a car crash in a country lane or a couple catching a secret kiss in a doorway lend your layout a touch of realism, making it more compelling, enjoyable and bringing it to life.
Best of all, adding them is no harder than making normal scenery or buildings and just requires a little imagination. Take a look around any street and make a note of the small events you see unfolding around you and create them in miniature. See A tip from award winning layouts for more ideas.
Upgrade Your Electrics
Make the leap and transform your DC/analogueue layout into a whole new model railway by upgrading it to digital.
Not only will this give you many more options for the control of your trains and open up whole new possibilities for onboard train effects and if you model railways to keep mentally active it’ll give you a whole you field to learn.
For a small to medium-sized set up this isn’t difficult once you understand the basics of DCC and is actually easier than you might imagine.
Give your model railway a make-over
One thing is certain about model railways, they get better as we learn more. When I look back at my first model railways it’s quite depressing how bad they were but then I was only young and only just starting.
Although all elements of model railways are like this it’s never truer than for scenery. Not only will your hills, fields, trees and rivers look better the second time around the materials used for them naturally fades and age over time so just refreshing them will give your model railway a make-over.
You could even completely change the atmosphere of your layout by changing the scenics to reflect the season. Swapping the green trees for those with Autumnal leaf colours will transform your trackside scenes — just watch out for leaves on the line 🙂
Think how different your trains will look making their way through glorious scenes of red, brown and gold scenery!
If, by the way, you use one of the ideas covered in what Lego can teach railway modellers, scenery changes will be a lot easier. Briefly, when making your railway, place scenery areas on a sheet of plywood and pin this to the baseboard. When you then want to change scenery it’s just a case of pulling up the scenery plywood rather than working on areas in the middle of your layout.
And if you’re already inspired but need some help here’s a round up of some of my posts on model railway building basics.
- Laying Track
- How to ballast
- How to make tunnels
- How to make rivers and streams
- Running track across baseboards
- Everything you need to know about model railway grass
- Making your trains run better
Finally, if you are struggling for motivation, take a look at my ModelRailwayEngineer’s Instagram feed with pictures of some of the best model railways for inspiration.
> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.